Reviewer: JJ Marsh
What we thought:
The stories of three Zimbabwean men in Edinburgh is intriguing and unusual. The Magistrate used to dispense justice back home. Here, he cleans the toilet. The Mathematician makes money and indulges himself in the belief he won’t be here for long. The Maestro collects shopping trollies in Tesco’s car park and reads. The three men’s lives intersect and cross, meeting the challenges of a different culture with varying measures of success.
This book is rounded, measured and smart, and anything but a miserable tale of immigrant isolation. Intelligence and thought shine off the page via these layered and introspective characters. Farai’s casual sexism and judgemental views are offset by his willingness to engage with the old man in the café. The Magistrate’s adaptation to his changed circumstances is beautifully encapsulated in his memories of the maid. The Maestro’s gradual retreat from the world in search of meaning in books is slow, heart-breaking and completely plausible.
Whilst the main characters are more than enough to grip your attention, the supporting cast add still more light, shade and laughter. Alfonso, the rodent Del Boy alcoholic, is infuriating and hilarious at once. Tatyana, the Maestro’s Polish friend who would be more, is alternately invasive and vulnerable. One of the most powerful personalities in the book is Edinburgh itself. Huchu uses the city to the full: its people, its architecture, its humour.
The bittersweet ending left me sorry to leave these people and this place, but curious to read more by this talented, sly and unpredictable writer. Tendai Huchu is one to watch.
You’ll enjoy this if you liked: The Bridge by Iain Banks, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín.
Avoid if you dislike: Change, perspectives on politics and change, thinking.
Ideal accompaniments: A full Scottish breakfast, rock shandy and Baobab Gateway.
Genre: Literary fiction
Available on Amazon